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Homelessness crisis costs councils over £1bn in just one year

Posted 14 Nov 2019

The government has released new figures on the amount being spent by local councils on temporary accommodation for homeless households in England in 2018/19. They show:

  • Councils spent £1.1 billion on temporary accommodation for homeless households between April 2018 and March 2019. This has increased by 9% in the last year and 78% in the last five years.

  • Shockingly, more than 30% of the total was spent on emergency B&Bs – £344 million – some of the worst places for families with children to live.

  • Funding for temporary accommodation mainly comes from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). However, these figures illustrate the huge gap between DWP funding, and the amount councils need to house homeless households. The amount councils spent from their own budget on TA has increased by 123% in the last five years, while central government grants for social housebuilding have been cut.

  • Spending on B&Bs has increased by a staggering 111% in the last five years. As Shelter sees through its own services, this is largely due to a shortage of affordable accommodation meaning councils may have no choice but to use emergency B&Bs.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “These figures are a shocking, yet entirely preventable consequence of our housing emergency. If consecutive governments had built the genuinely affordable social homes that are needed, fewer people would be homeless, and we would not be wasting vast sums on unsuitable temporary accommodation.  

“What’s even more shameful is that so much of this public money is lining the pockets of unscrupulous private landlords, who can charge desperate councils extortionate rates for grim B&Bs, because there’s nowhere else for families to go. No family should have to live in a tiny room where there’s nowhere to even cook a meal, or any safe space for their children to play.

“This is a crisis we cannot allow politicians to ignore during this election. Social housing must be at the heart of every manifesto, and all parties must to commit to at least 90,000 new social homes a year over the next parliament. If they don’t, all of us will pay an even higher price.”

Notes to editors:

All temporary accommodationB&Bs
Homeless Households (2019 Q1)Number of households84,7407,040
Increase over last five years45%61%
Amount Spent (18/19)Amount spent1,086,316,219343,981,951
"Proportion of overall spendingN/A this is the total spent on TA32%
"Increase in amount spent overall over five years78%111%
"Of which, amount that councils had to find from their own budgets280,134,203114,861,185
"Increase in amount spent from own budget over five years123%133%
  1. As well as being expensive, B&Bs are regarded as one of the least suitable types of accommodation for families to live in. This is because they involve having to share facilities (bathrooms and kitchens) and often the whole family will also have to sleep in one room. There is a six-week legal limit on families being placed in B&Bs.

  2. The amount spent on temporary accommodation (TA) by councils in England is published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG): Revenue outturn housing services, LA drop-down.   

  3. The 2018/19 annual spend data is published here: Revenue outturn housing services (R04).  

  4. The total amount spent on TA includes Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) funding as well as funding from councils’ general budgets.  

  5. We have compared 2018/19 data with 2017/18 and 2013/14 data to show the change over the last year and the last five years. The 2017/18 data is published here: Revenue outturn housing services (R04) and the 2013/14 data is published 

  6. The number of households living in different types temporary accommodation is published by MHCLG here: Temporary Accommodation, Table TA1   

  7. We have compared 2019 Q1 data with 2014 Q1 data. The number of households living in TA are as reported on 31st March 2014 and 31st March 2019. This data represents a snapshot of the number of households living in TA on a given night rather than an accumulative annual figure.

  8. The number of households accommodated in temporary accommodation cannot be directly compared with the TA spend data because the number of households in TA is a snapshot figure whilst the amount spent on TA is an annual figure.